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29.08.2018  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

The India-England series has exploded into life already. Having lost the first two Tests against the hosts, India bounced back in style in the third game at Trent Bridge as the visitors ended up winning the game by a handsome margin of 203 runs. The five-match series is now delicately poised at 2-1 in favour of England with two more to go.

On the eve of the fourth Test, India should seek to focus on the following aspects:

1.Team Composition

India should go into the fourth Test match unchanged, save for the injured R.Ashwin. Jadeja would be the perfect replacement for Ashwin. Other than this forced change, the team management should not disturb the winning combination. Both Dhawan and Shami are living on borrowed time, nevertheless, they should be retained for the fourth Test.

As the series is moving towards its business end, this is not the best time to blood young talent like a Prithvi Shaw. Besides, if Kohli wins the toss, he should look to bat first as Joe Root won't be so generous this time around.

2.Batting Partnerships

The major contributor to Team India's victory in the Third Test was the number of significant partnerships the Indian batsmen could forge throughout the innings. Starting from the opening partnership between Dhawan and Rahul in both the innings, India were better served by Kohli and Rahane in the first innings and Kohli and Pujara in the second innings. The Indian batsmen should exhibit the same sort of patience and application as in the third Test to accumulate the runs. The likely inclusion of the left-arm fast bowler Sam Curran in the England bowling lineup should make the batsmen's task that much more daunting. Every Indian batsman should intend to face a minimum number of balls, in the process denying back-to-back wickets to England bowlers.

The reminiscence of Lord's is still fresh and one more collapse like that will terminate the series for India. Similar to what Kohli did in the first Test, one of the top order batsmen should bat through the innings for India to fashion meaningful partnerships even with the tail.

3.Sharpening the slip catching

India's slip catching at Trent Bridge was excellent and Rahul was simply terrific. This was one aspect of the game where India outplayed England from the beginning of the series, not because the Indians were better, but because the Englishmen were worse. The Indians should improve a lot on this aspect of the game to stay alive in the series.

The Indians should continue to hold on to their catches if they have any genuine aspiration to level the series at Ageas bowl. The slip cordon should be manned by Pujara, Rahul, Kohli and Rahane. Dhawan should once again be banished to the outfield.

4.Particular Bowlers for Particular Batsmen

India should open the bowling with Ishant Sharma and Bumrah with the new ball. Throughout the series, the England openers were more vulnerable to Ishant Sharma and looked like getting out to him anytime. India should inflict this psychological advantage on the England openers.

Shami has this tendency to spray the new ball and hence should be brought in as first change. Shami could be more effective with the old ball against the left-handers in the middle-order, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran and Moeen Al, if selected.

The newcomer Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler should be welcomed with spin to start with. Jos Buttler's natural aggression against the spinner could lead to his early downfall.

The third Test hero Hardik Pandya should be given more number of overs in the first innings ahead of Jadeja. The England tail should be exposed to Bumrah and Hardik Pandya. The Indian bowlers should fire in unison to take wickets at regular intervals to choke up the run flow.

5.Deficiencies masked in victory

India's massive win at Trent Bridge had masked some of the shortcomings of the team. The Indians should look to overcome the following deficiencies:

# In the third Test, the Indian slip fielders were in a close huddle, resulting in more number of players covering very little segment of the slip cordon. Unlike in the Third test, the slip fielders should be positioned with a healthy gap among them to avoid disorder and to cover a wider area.

# The wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant had his problems in covering Bumrah's angle. His initial trigger movement towards the leg-side left him a lot to cover on the off-side. This had led to his dropping of Jos Buttler in the second innings, which had cost a century of runs to the team. Thankfully, at Trent Bridge, India had lot of runs in the tank. But a drop like that in a low -scoring match could be decisive.

# Bumrah's problem with the no-ball still continues. With his unusual bowling action, he is always prone to bowling no balls. The Trent Bridge Test should have been over in four days but for Bumrah's no ball. Had there been weather interference on the last day of the third Test, Bumrah's no ball could have cost India the match.

# Though the Indian openers gave India a decent start in both the innings of the Third Test, one of them should strive to bat long enough to face the second new ball. That is asking too much from Dhawan, but Rahul should play that role.

Winning three Test matches on the bounce is very tough for any visiting team. However, after their team's convincing win in the Third Test, the Indian supporters have now started believing that their players have it in them to replicate the feat Sir Don Bradman's Australia achieved in 1936-37 when they beat England 3-2 after trailing 0-2.

Exciting times ahead.